How to Improve Your Listening: Create a Listening Log

There are a lot of FREE resources out there to help improve your listening skills. But to get the most out of your time, it helps to focus your practice on particular skills which you find difficult.

Below, you can see an example ‘Listening Log’.

As you can see, the log includes the length of each listening text you use, this is helpful to make sure you are building up the length of listening texts. For some exams and Academic English study you will need to listen to long texts. It can be easy to lose focus and get distracted when listening for long periods, so start with shorter texts and build your concentration.


The 3rd column is for you to write the strategies you use when listening. These are the techniques you practice in class. Here are some useful techniques:

a. Use the title, pictures, topic or words available to think about what you are going to hear. What do you already know about the subject? What kind of words and/or grammar do you expect to hear? Do you have any questions about the topic?

b. Slow listening. Some sites actually allow you to listen at different speeds. Other sites, like YouTube, allows you to slow down the speed, or make it faster (don’t do this). You can practice listening to a text at a slower speed and then build up to a natural speed.

c. Pausing. You can listen in short pieces, pausing when you want. This is not cheating. But try to pause less frequently and for shorter periods as you practice.

d. Dictation. It can be really helpful to practice writing what you hear. Again, this should only be used for short excerpts, but pausing or slow listening to write the first few sentences of a listening text can help you understand how that particular speaker talks and understand some of the keywords or ideas they are going to talk about.

e. Tapescripts/Subtitles. If you have problems understanding natural speech because it is too fast, you can always listen with a tapescript or subtitles. This is not cheating. Try listening once or twice with the tapescript and then again without.

f. Listening for main points. We often don’t have to understand everything someone says. Try listening only for the main points and build an understanding of the things you can ignore. Listen again, how does the speaker signal what is not essential information? Do they say the main points more slowly, more loudly? Do they paraphrase the main points, repeat them, number them?

g. A lot of websites offering free listening resources also give free exercises or activities you can do. Try those.

h. Shadowing can be very helpful in understanding pronunciation and fast, natural speech.

i. Guessing words from context is a useful skill to practice in both listening and writing.


The 4th column is for your reflections on your listening. What did you find easy? What needs more practice? Are you improving? What else can you try?



Listening Text


Strategies Used



Real English Alphabet


2 mins

Practiced sounds of letters before

Speed was very fast, some letters were difficult to distinguish.

Will try again in a few days


Addicted to Sugar

6 minute English


6 mins

1.Thought about topic before listening

2.Wrote notes

3.Listened again with tapescript & checked notes

Learned new words – commodity, a sweet tooth, flood the market

Easier to understand the second time.


Deadly Fire Ants Spreading across Australia. Breaking News English Level 4

2 mins

1.Listened on slowest speed first

2. Tried gap fill activity & checked at faster speed.

3. Listened at fastest speed with tapescript.

Comfortable at middle speed.  Some difficult words at level 4. Try more level 4 recordings.


The Animals of Yellowstone Park ESL Video

5 mins

1.Watched and listened.

2. Did the quiz and gap-fill

Some difficult words, will try with lower level videos.


A Healthy Lifestyle

Randall’s ESL Lab

1 min

1.Thought about the topic questions

2. Listening exercise

3. Listened with tapescript to check my answers.

This was quite fast but easy because I know a lot of the vocabulary.

Why not try keeping a Listening Log for a week or so? And let me know, did it help? Is there anything else you would add to the log above?